Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Pacific Ocean Seashore Travel

Beach Exploration around Northern Vancouver Island

One of the many advantages of living on beautiful Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, is its endless and diverse selection of beaches. Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America stretching about 460 km long and 50-120 km in width. The Pacific Ocean surrounds us creating endless sandy and rocky beaches. Some are famous and well known internationally–Rathrevor Beach and Long Beach (Pacific Rim National Park).

Evening at Rathtrevor Beach

However, there are a multitude of other stunning, less known beaches if you are ready to explore our Island. This blog post will present a few other beach options at Port Hardy and Campbell River at Northern Vancouver Island.

Commencing in my home town of Port Hardy located on the northern end of Vancouver Island.

If you plan to depart on B.C. Ferries heading north to Bella Bella (and area) or Prince Rupert you will be departing from the Port Hardy Bear Cove terminal. There is also a small airport. Port Hardy is the gateway to outdoor adventures: like kayaking, scuba diving, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park, fishing, whale watching, exploring First Nations culture, exploring the beaches, caving, or hiking to Cape Scott or the North Coast trail.

There is much to see and explore in Port Hardy and the small communities on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This informative website is packed with ideas and nature information. https://www.visitporthardy.com/

If you prefer sandy beaches; kayaking around the nearby islands; and possibly seeing sea mammals (Seals, Sea lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback whales, or Orca whales then Storey’s Beach is an amazing place to experience.

Photo Credit to my friend, Dana Rufus, for these lovely photos of Storey’s Beach.

Storey’s Beach and the Tex Lyon trail hike are also favorite locations for north island locals.

Mid tide…During low tide the sand extends far out into the bay.

If you prefer Rocky shorelines abundant with fascinating sea life and beautiful views of mountains and down town activities, then the Port Hardy sea walk and beacon area is where you should explore.

Exploring Hardy rocky beach area… May

There is an abundance of sea life around Port Hardy … from Moon Snail collars (egg casings), rock weed and tidal pools, chitons, shells, and whelk snail eggs. These are only a few of the fascinating things you could discover.

Check the tide schedules… this was a low tide in May.

If you are lucky enough to discover a zero low tide, don’t miss the opportunity to explore! We discovered ghost shrimp, shells, barnacles, crabs, sea stars, sea anemones, whelks, limpets, and so much more.

Moon snail collars and moon snails, sea cucumbers, sea stars. Photos by Dana Rufus.

If you are ambitious and hit the lowest tides of the year… you can cross from the sand spit over to the beacon. We just missed the opportunity this year, as the tide was not quite low enough and we could not quite pass from the spit to the beacon. The ocean water was over our boot level.

The sea life species are incredible at the beacon. These photos were taken by my friend Dana Rufus who managed to hit the lowest tide and cross to the beacon for a limited time. Thanks Dana

Sea life at the beacon in Port Hardy. Photos by Dana Rufus.

Bat stars, bull kelp, sea squirts, crabs, sea anemones… even gumboot chitons can be discovered there! For decades I took my students across to the beacon on the zero tide each year. It truly is a remarkable experience!

One last look view of some of the scenic areas around my home town Port Hardy, as tomorrow we head southeast down Vancouver island.

Beach views around Port Hardy, BC in May

Taking highway 19 down island from Port Hardy to Campbell River takes about 2 1/2 hours (230 km). The trip can be quite challenging in rainy, foggy winter weather; but glorious and majestic otherwise.

Fuel up prior to departure as there are only fuel stations in Port McNeill, Woss, and Sayward during the trip. Watch for nature and wild animals–particularly in May–as bears are often more visible eating fresh grass.

Highway 19 between Port McNeill and Sayward

Campbell River is a lovely community with great fishing, and lots of beautiful walking trails. Instead of heading south on the inland highway, try the old highway which follows the ocean.

To get acquainted with some of the tourist options available in Campbell River, check out the informative website. https://www.campbellriver.travel/

We love stopping at Foggdukkers Coffee stop on the Campbell River Seawalk at Simms Creek. It is a favorite location for locals and a funky fun place to take a break and enjoy some great coffee!

Foggdukkers Coffee Stop at Campbell River

Another favorite location in Campbell River, is the Baikie Island Nature Preserve and Campbell River Estuary. It is a beautiful location to walk or kayak and peacefully while enjoying the sounds and antics of ducks and birdlife. Float planes land periodically and Tyee boat history is displayed. Seals and even the odd beaver can be viewed here too.

Campbell River Estuary in the evening —May

There are so many pristine beaches and wilderness options to explore on Vancouver Island. In this blog post I shared a few less travelled locations which truly are stunning.

My next blog posts will cover Sophia’s 1st year (our rescue kitten), and more gorgeous areas for nature walks/hikes/kayaking adventures around Vancouver Island.

Our province of British Columbia just moved into Stage 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan after Covid. The future looks so optimistic!

Categories
Adventure Cats Exploring Outdoors Nature Travel Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Paradise! Nature hikes in January!

Time to welcome in a new year! (I’m a bit behind!) Do you enjoy hiking through lush rainforests, or walking adjacent to the ocean where kayaks explore and seals and shorebirds are common? This is our paradise living on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia is a unique island paradise off the west coast of Canada. The “Island” is 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length, 80+ kilometres (50+ miles) in width at the widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 square miles) in area.

Vancouver Island is roughly the same size as Belgium (30,688 km²)or Taiwan (36,193 km²), and much bigger than Israel (20,770 km²), Kuwait (17,818km²) and Jamaica (10,991 km²).

January hike to Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo

Most of our forest areas are rainforest; however, our coastal climate is much more temperate than most of the rest of Canada. This blog post represents some of the beautiful outdoor locations around our home in Nanaimo. Keep in mind, all these adventures occurred during January–Winter in Canada.

Winter time enthusiasts—Kayakers and a person paddling on a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard).

My husband and I love hiking, kayaking, exploring nature, skiing, and so forth. My son does not always share our adventurous ways. Sophia (our rescue kitten) has mixed feelings about outdoor adventures. She is incredibly curious, but likes the comforts of home too. Sophia loves to burrow and sometimes surprises us by hiding under blankets, rugs, cloth, coats, pillows, etc.

Sophia (rescue kitten) aged 7 months

Another January day, another opportunity to explore beaches and beautiful decorated clouds adorning the blue skies.

January beach walk

Nature offers beauty everywhere and there is lots of physical space to explore…

There are dozens and dozens of trails to hike and explore around our home. This short video represents a hike through one of our rainforest trails in winter. You will see a vast array of flora (plant life) from Arbutus to moss and lichen wrapped nurse trees growing fungus between ferns.

Cottle Lake Trail at Linley Valley

Try to use your imagination to hear and see all the bird species who make their homes in our rain forests.

More blog posts of nature and wildlife on Vancouver Island will be coming, but the next post will be “Sophia’s introduction to Snow!”.

Until then….Stay Safe and Keep on Smiling.

Categories
Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Reflections–Fun and Sun. Mexico prior to Covid

Reflections and flash backs from our last International trip abroad prior to Covid 19. Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019. Fun in the sun!

Mexican love at our Playa del Carmen resort.

As Covid continues to affect us all globally, and we are increasingly familiar with our homes and yards; it is soothing and peaceful to reflect upon fun and adventure from prior to the global lockdown. This blog post reflects the laughter, sun, and fun from our most recent trip abroad to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I invite you to travel virtually with me to sunny Mexico.

Home base— Sandos Playacar Beach Resort. Playa del Carmen. Mexico

Mark, Lynda and I decided to take a taxi and explore the nearby community of Playa del Carmen. This coastal town is located along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The resort community is located in the Quintana Roo state. Quinta Avenida pedestrian area is a shoppers’ souvenir haven where blocks of shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars are located near the beach.

Lynda had fun posing with the men in cultural bird regalia. We appreciated the colorful street graffiti and I was intrigued with all the beaded art creations for sale.

Quinta Avenida

It was time to catch a taxi and return to the resort as tonight was “Mexican Cultural Extravaganza Night!”. The Sandos provided quite a cultural experience for us–from food, to costumes, dancing (including the traditional Mexican Hat dance), and Mariachi bands. We were immersed and felt the energy, pride and vibrancy from this beautiful country. An added surprise was when they called up visitors celebrating a birthday as I was one! We danced. We laughed. We made lots of noise!

Here is a short video depicting highlights from the Mexican Extravaganza Night at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort.

Mexican Extravaganza at Sando

Within this brief 9 day trip to Playa del Carmen my husband and I have explored the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, swam with catfish in cenotes, explored “Xcaret by Mexico” during the day and evening, and snorkeled at Puerto Morelos Reef National Park.

We have laughed each day while getting reacquainted with dear friends from Orange Beach, Alabama, and definitely celebrated my 60th birthday in style! The warm enticing oceans and pools were appreciated each day as were the endless aspects of staying in an ‘all inclusive resort’. These Mexican adventures have been recorded and celebrated in 5 previous blog posts.

Fun activities around the resort.—Aquafit, yes. Pool table tennis, no.

Our final day was spent relaxing around the resort with our dear friends Terry and Lynda.

Enjoying the lovely resort

Who knew this would be our final gathering in close quarters for an unknown duration due to covid?

Beautiful friends and beautiful meals!

These were days of relaxing in the sun without accompanying face masks and bottles of sanitizer. There were no signs reminding us of 2 meters physical distancing or washing hands with soap regularly while singing the Happy Birthday song two times.

A couple from Canada, a couple from USA, loving being together in beautiful Mexico!

I am grateful to my caring, loving husband who surprised me with this birthday trip to Mexico to celebrate my 60th year. We are appreciative that we reunited with delightful friends, Terry and Lynda. We are thankful that Mexico embraced us and shared their beautiful festive cultures, sun, and history. We are hopeful that once again our world will be free to explore and share with beautiful people from all countries around our magnificent globe.

Our return trip home to Vancouver Island, Canada.

My husband and I returned back to Canada tanned and relaxed. There was no premonition that this would be our last International adventure for an unknown period of time…

Future blog posts will be dedicated to creative ways to keep optimistic and active during covid times… Keep safe my friends!

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Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexico Travel Xcaret

Parque Xcaret. “Mexico’s Majestic Paradise”.

December 2019. Our last International trip prior to Covid 19. Is Xcaret Mexico truly the cultural Disneyland of Mexico? This blog post explores the park during the day then includes the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night performance.

Today we are exploring the multi award winning Xcaret Mexico theme park culminating with the famous evening cultural performance entitled “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” After breakfast we departed from Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

The distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park is only 7-8 km. Many resorts promote tours and we booked a few ‘tours’ on the day we arrived in Mexico. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are buses available (March 2021) for only $1-$10 CA depending on your route and bus company. Taxis are also available for $12-15 CA and take about 10 minutes each way. There are multiple websites to assist your research including: https://www.rome2rio.com

Photo opportunities galore at Xcaret

Once the tour bus drops you at the entrance parking lot and you pick up your Admission package, you are given a 14 page directory/map in the language of your choice and you’re off to explore the park. http://www.xcaret.com

$124.72 CAD per adult (March 2021 price quote) bought us the Xcaret day admission to the park including Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening performance. Our goal was to focus on areas depicting live animals and wildlife from Mexico prior to attending the evening cultural show.

Xcaret Aviary. So many gorgeous birds including Flamingos, macaws, and quetzal.

For additional $ there were many other tourist based options available including: special dinners, encounters and photo ops with (stingrays, sharks, dolphins, manatees), snorkeling tours, adrenaline fun, massages, etc. In addition, there were photo areas scattered around the park where your photo was taken and you could choose to purchase these photos later in the day.

Various areas of Xcaret

Xcaret is a family fun park which includes a large children’s activity area, cultural presentations around the grounds, beach areas, and man made underground rivers which meander throughout the park. People can be observed maneuvering small kayaks, tubes, or swimming in the narrow rivers as you explore around the park areas.

2 types of Jaguars, Tapir, and Manatees

Xcaret truly is a beehive of activity and offers options to suit various tastes and interests. The grounds of the park are vast and we certainly were not able to experience everything in only one day. Our preference is live fauna and flora from this lovely country of Mexico as well as cultural displays. Our photos are representative of this.

This video highlights our day tour around Xcaret

But the highlight of our experience at Xcaret was yet to come… We were advised to queue in line as soon as the doors opened for the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. Prior to entering the huge auditorium each person was presented with a small cardboard figure and a candle.

The forum reminded me of a Canadian hockey arena after the ice is taken out. We followed the early crowd who immediately claimed seats near the main entrance doors. It turned out to be a prize location to view the elaborate show.

Our view from beside the main entrance doors!

More than 300 artists performed 18 acts prior to an electrifying Grand Finale. The dancing, costumes, singing, bands, horses, massive props, colours, sounds, energy and vibrancy continued non-stop throughout the entire show.

In addition, we witnessed the history of Mexico. The journey took the audience from historical dances and rituals, through Mayan and Aztec culture, to Spanish conquest and the Mexican revolution.

Mesoamerican Ball game and Ball of Fire Game

From the physically rough Mesoamerican ball game and Ball of Fire game to the Volodores (Flying Men) and the traditional Mexican Hat Dance; the entertainment was expansive and expressive.

Of course, the Mariachi bands blared, the shoes stamped, and the skirts swooshed!

Click the video below to see highlights from the evening Xcaret Mexico performance.

An incredible Mexican journey!

The Grand Finale was stunning and the song “Mexico en la Piel” translated means “Mexico on Your Skin“. It is such an appropriate title because as we departed from the Xcaret by Mexico Concert, we felt as though we had been embraced by the the people and culture of Mexico.

I won’t give away any more secrets because in my opinion, this is a show you definitely should see if you are travelling near this area of Mexico! (Playa del Carmen, Cancun).

Categories
Before Covid 19 Birthday Howler Monkeys Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Howler Monkeys Sing at Mexican Birthday!

Before Covid 19. (December 2019) Our last International Trip

My husband surprised me with a trip to sunny, gorgeous Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate my 60th Birthday. We had no idea this would be our final International destination due to the pandemic.

A few highlights from my 60th birthday.

Gratefully, we had a fabulous experience and it was such a memorable way to announce my 6th decade milestone! From relaxing beaches and sunshine to walking snowmen, iguanas, howler monkeys, Mexican hats, food, friends, towels cakes, music and dance. Mexican birthdays are so much fun!!

After an emotional start opening birthday cards and gifts from family back in Canada, we departed from our room at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen to head off for a lovely outdoor brunch in the sun. En route we had quite a surprise when a troupe of Howler monkeys made an appearance outside our suite and the alpha male put on quite a vocalization performance for us.

Howler monkeys sing Happy Birthday! Lol

For fun, I chose to interpret the deep, guttural vocalizations as an attempt to sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 It was the only time we saw and heard the howlers so close during our stay at the resort.

Howlers and Mexican Agouti

After a lovely brunch we explored the grounds and enjoyed the beach with our friends Lynda and Terry. A lady with a snowman passed by….Sure that’s believable? lol . Resort personnel were setting up domes on the beach for an upcoming wedding ceremony while people played beach volleyball or attended a beach aerobics class.

Birthday events

Today…We were fully participating in the relax mode. Besides…We had a birthday dinner reservation tonight!

When Lynda, Terry, Mark and I arrived at the Mexican restaurant, our table was colorfully decorated and we experienced spicy, delightful Mexican cuisine. Our waiter was a friend of Terry and Lynda’s and he made certain everything was extra special for us. Lynda and I donned traditional Mexican hats and a multitude of photos were taken of inebriated tourists!

After dinner we attended the nightly concert entitled Divas which included a talented Celine Dion impersonator. Upon returning to our room, we discovered a birthday fairy had visited! Wow! What a fantastic way to celebrate a 60th birthday. Thanks to my fabulous husband for making this possible!

May I repeat my birthday tomorrow? Just kidding. I highly recommend a Mexican birthday! Here is a short movie showing highlights from our day.

Happy birthday Mexican style!

Tomorrow we have another full day of exciting exploration and discovery. We are heading to Xcaret Mexico for a day of fun followed by the superb cultural night show. Watch for the next blog post!

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Coral Reef Mexico Puerto Morelos National Park Snorkelling Travel

Snorkeling the Coral Reef at Puerto Morelos National Park

Mexico (Prior to Covid 19. December 2019)

Today we depart from our resort in Playa del Carmen for a 1/2 day Snorkel experience with “Go native” tour company. For $79 CA plus $10 USD National Park preservation fee each person, we will “dive into the greatest coal reef in America”. We love snorkeling and interacting with marine life.

Our last coral reef exploration was The Great Barrier Reef off Eastern Australia. This stunning reef is a tough act to follow, but serious coral damage at the Great Barrier Reef was clearly visible compared to our snorkeling experience 10 years previously. Research points to the damage at the reef being the result of a combination of factors including: global warming, an increased rise in ocean temperature and pollution.

We are curious to see how the marine life of the largest coral reef in America, Puerto Morelos National Park, is fairing. Benito Juarez here we come!

This was our meeting location where we picked up flippers, masks, and life jackets. There were about 10-12 in our snorkel group including delightful identical triplet athletes from Memphis, USA. We boarded our little vessel heading off to 3 different dive locations on the reef.

Finally, we got to jump overboard! The water was warm and inviting. The visibility was quite good. It is always a delight to snorkel around reefs searching for interesting fish, coral, and unique marine life. Our snorkel guides were very careful about protocol around the reefs and confirmed the real concerns that global warming is negatively effecting reef life. Marine life is precious and fragile. We must protect it.

Here is a short video with highlights from our snorkel excursion.

Highlights from our snorkelling excursion at Puerto Morelos National Park

It was inspiring to see racks of new coral being grown to supplement the reef population. While snorkeling we spotted some fish, a small nurse shark, and a variety of coral. There was limited diversity of life compared to the abundance of the Great Barrier Reef or cold ocean diving around northern Vancouver Island, Canada. However, it was a fun morning exploring in the warm ocean of beautiful Mexico.

After returning to our Sandos Playacar Beach Resort at Playa del Carmen we relaxed on the beach until a lively, full of fun, couple approached us. My husband’s close friends from decades past had arrived from Alabama.

This dynamo couple were totally entrancing and our bond was immediate! Terry and Lynda are a delight and made the rest of our vacation in Mexico full of fun and laughter. Tomorrow is my birthday…The next blog post will be Birthdays Mexican style!

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Adventure Before Covid 19 Cenote Cenote Saamal Chichen Itza Kukulkan, El Castillo pyramid Mayan Mexican Food Mexico Seven Wonders of the World Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site

Virtual Travel to Chichen Itza and swim with catfish at Cenote Saamal.

Mexico Prior to Covid (Dec. 2019)

What a day we have planned! As our visit to Yucatan, Mexico is brief and opportunities to learn exist in each new geographical location; we decided to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences with the local company Living Dreams Mexico and a private local tour guide. We selected the Chichen Itza Private tour with Sacred Cenote and Authentic Lunch“.

Although this tour was priced at over $300 CA each everything was included and our private guide was knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate and well respected by locals. We even had a surprising experience at the end of our Mexican buffet as servers broke into birthday song and we discovered it was our guide, Angela Rojas, Birthday! Here are highlights of our 7+ hour cultural tour around Yucatan with our amazing guide, Angela.

In order to minimize the rush of tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza, Angela arrived at our resort in Playa del Carmen bright and early at 6:30 a.m. We stopped to grab a coffee and tasty morning treat while Angela explained the day’s agenda, showing us maps and sharing about the Mayan history and culture. Angela was a wealth of knowledge and bilingual in English and Mexican-Spanish.

Morning coffee and maps of Yucatan, Mexico.

During the 181.5 km drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza we took highways 305D and 180D passing through a toll station en route. The roads were not busy early in the morning and we arrived at our destination at 8:20 a.m. before the crowds of tourists and while parking spaces were plentiful.

Aerial photos of Chichen Itza complex –World Heritage Site in Yucatan, Mexico.

It was educational watching the vendors pulling their wares along the sandy paths and setting up around the grounds at San Felipe Nuevo. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan-Toltec ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Vendors setting up at Chichen Itza at 8:15 a.m.

A little background information:

Chichen Itza was listed in 1988 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. My research reflects several meanings to the name Chichen Itza: “the mouth at the well of Itza” or “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes“. These meanings tie to the water located in natural cavities (cenotes) found throughout this location. (Which we will explore later in this blog post). Itza meaning ‘water magicians’ translated from Mayan Itz meaning ‘magic’ and a meaning ‘water’.

The sacred cenotes have further intrigue as scientists have theorized that the cenotes are located in a ring pattern across the Yucatan Peninsula and were created by the impact of a massive asteroid–probably also ending the existence of dinosaurs. Search “Chicxulub impactor“.

In ancient, pre-Columbian times Chichen Itza was a thriving civilization of Mayan- Toltec peoples. Archaeology records estimate the city at over 1,000 years old. The complex was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Art and cultural influences are mainly from Mayan-Toltec (earlier) and Spanish (after conquest).

Please click the following video to experience highlights from our amazing guided tour around the Chichen Itza ruins.

Our day exploring Historic Chichen Itza

The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which is 98 feet or 29.87 metres in height. In order to protect the archaeological pyramid from erosion, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the stairways. Other buildings at the heritage site which have survived include: the Warriors’ Temple, Circular observatory, Great Ball Court, Jaguar Temple, Group of Thousand Columns, and Tomb of the High Priest.

A reliable, educational source to check for further information, history and photos (available in several languages) is the UNESCO World Heritage website at http://whc.unesco.org Search: Chichen-Itza

After collecting souvenirs, we were off to explore a sacred cenote! The 40 km drive on highway 180 to Cenote Saamal near Valladolid took about 35 minutes. Our 2 hour visit at Cenote Saamal flew by so quickly!

BRRR! The shower was chilly after being in the hot sun all morning! Saamal cenote.

The beautiful, soothing swim in the cenote was complete with catfish, dripping waterfalls, and a dive platform.

Playing with the catfish at Saamal cenote.

Despite your swimming ability, showers and lifejackets are requirements here.

Sacred Saamal Cenote–The Catfish loved to hang out in the shallow water.

After our refreshing swim, we had the good fortune of meeting a current athlete from the national Great Ball team. I can only imagine the damage those stone ‘balls’ would make on your body! Lunchtime! The Mexican buffet was extensive and delicious. We would love to return here. Plus….we had a surprise in store as we discovered it was our tour guide’s birthday!

Meeting the athlete on the National Great Ball team, Mexican buffet, and Angela’s birthday surprise.

Our final stop prior to the homebound journey, was to visit the city of Valladolid. This pretty city was very colorful and filled with flowers and gardens. Points to note include: the colonial buildings, the cathedrals and plazas, and definitely the Chocolate shops!

Exploring pretty Valladolid

Thank you for the fabulous tour Angela Rojas! Our porthole into the history, culture, and customs of the Mayan people and the Yucatan peninsula has definitely expanded. We arrived back at Playa del Carmen Beach Resort in time for a relaxing sunset and dinner. What an inspiring day!

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen. Sunset.

Tomorrow morning we head off to Benito Juarez to snorkel in the National Park reefs of this area. What will we discover?

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Canada Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Magnificent Mexico! Our Last International Destination before Covid.

December 2019 (Memories)

Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort
Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. December 2019

My husband surprised me by planning a special destination trip, to bring in a certain decade birthday, in a very memorable way. Who would have known that this trip to Mexico would be our final International trip for an unknown time due to the global pandemic? No masks. No hand sanitizer or washing stations in sight! No physical and social distancing yet. Presenting our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in December 2019.

The B.C. Provincial museum exhibit Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. Victoria, B.C.

Conveniently, prior to our departure, The British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria was running an exbibit entitled Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. We drove 110 km south on Vancouver Island to our capital city of Victoria excited to gain insight and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The information about the archaeological site of Chichen Itza was fascinating and we vowed to visit the actual site while in the Playa del Carmen area.

Prior to our Mexico bound departure, we enjoyed touring our capital city of Victoria. Yes. It is winter time on Vancouver Island, Canada.

The capital city of B.C. is Victoria. Yes. This is during the Canadian winter on Vancouver Island.

My son Alexander also purchased a sweet white Mazda 3 car. Our bags were packed, it was time to travel! Our float plane from Nanaimo to Vancouver departed at sunrise. In spite of some rain, the view of the islands and activity around the channel is always engaging. Conversation is limited though, as this mode of travel is very noisy! From Vancouver airport we boarded Westjet to fly via Calgary to Cancun.

Our float plane flight to Vancouver. Followed by our flight arriving in Cancun.

We departed Nanaimo, Western Canada at sunrise and were famished when we arrived in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. However, we soon discovered that there were more line ups and waits ahead prior to arriving at our resort in Playa del Carmen. The WestJet holiday package promised to have a representative meet us and take us to our resort. Hundreds of tourists were in a similar situation. Eventually, we were divided up and put on various buses. The bus we were allocated to stopped at 5 or 6 resorts, and Sandos Playacar Beach Resort was last on its agenda.

The long adventure from Cancun airport eventually eating dinner at 10:30 p.m.

It was dark and the restaurants were about to close when we finally arrived at our resort. Although tired and a little disillusioned, the lobby was spacious, bright and inviting. The staff were friendly and helpful. Our room was fabulous and the grounds looked clean and enticing. The restaurant staff welcomed us staying open late and served us a most delightful meal. We could not wait to see the resort in the daylight and make the most of our all inclusive resort.

This was our view at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort the morning after…. December 1st 2019.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019

Although we like to explore and be active, we allocated this day to chill and relax around the resort exploring the pools and the ocean. We donned 50 sunscreen and slowly, carefully added some color to our winter time pale Canadian skins. Mark was approached by one of the beach vendors to purchase some Cuban cigars. He thought they were great!

Mark enjoying his Cuban cigars.

We had a wonderful day. The following video depicts some of the fun and highlights of our first full day in Playa del Carmen, Mexico including an AC/DC tribute band in the evening.

Our first full day at our Mexican resort

Tomorrow we have a private full day tour planned — Chichen Itza, swimming in cenotes, and learning about Mayan culture. Guess what I’ll be blogging about next?

Categories
Adventure Canada Introduction Travel

Adventures and Contemplations from Sandy’s Perspective

The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna now! Thank you Canada! There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.

Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Vancouver Island, Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.

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Canada Travel

Historic Cariboo — Soda Creek and Xat’sull Heritage Village.

I have been taking a hiatus from writing. However, travelling through B.C.’s Caribou country this past summer was so noteworthy, that I find myself drawn back to my laptop to share the historical beauty and intrigue we witnessed this past July.  Commencing in lovely Quesnel, then progressing through the B.C. Cariboo country to Historic Soda Creek and the Aboriginal Settlement at Xatśūll Heritage Village. Both communities at Soda Creek are located adjacent to the majestic Fraser River. Lunch at Williams Lake, then the day’s adventure concludes at quaint Clinton, B.C.

Quesnel is a city in the Cariboo Regional District of British Columbia located nearly evenly between the cities of Prince George and Williams Lake on the main highway to northern B.C. and the Yukon at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a pretty community to walk through and have a coffee or meal.

About an hour past Quesnel exploring gravel roads meadering beside the Fraser River, we discovered the historic community of Soda Creek, B.C. There seem to be 2 distinct areas and histories in this area.

The first area we discovered had signage, a well kept cemetery and historic monument, and evidence of past homesteads and buildings.

There are even some families currently living beside the river. This area was developed during the mid 1800’s when a Cariboo Road was built connecting Lillooet to Alexandria for access during the gold rush period. Construction was completed to Soda Creek in 1863. The location was also deemed perfect as a sternwheeler terminus on the Fraser River. Steamers named the Entreprise, and the  Victoria were based here to transport miners and supplies during the Omineca and Cariboo Gold Rushes.

In the early 1900’s, this area was also a thriving base during the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Additional sternwheelers, stage coaches, and automobiles were utilized during this busy second stage of Soda Creek history.

Upon further investigation and exploring, we discovered another historical site at Soda Creek called the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Xat’sull /ˈhæəl/ means “on the cliff where the bubbling water comes out”. (Wikipedia). The website created to promote this fascinating Heritage Village indicates the proper pronunciation is hat-sull.

We arrived at the Heritage Village; Unfortunately, there was nobody around to direct us or explain the spiritual, cultural, and traditional history. However, the grounds were spacious and fascinating to explore. There were several types of realistic sized dwellings displayed and it would be a fascinating tour with knowledgeable elders. One word of advice though…Bring insect repellent! The mosquitoes were brutal especially around the wigwams.

Onward to Williams Lake where we stopped to have lunch with my close friend, Julia.

Our final stop of the day was quaint Clinton which is located 40 km northwest of Cache Creek and 30 km south of 70 Mile House. For antique enthusiasts, there are several shops displaying stagecoach wheels and historic homestead supplies in this sleepy little town.

The remainder of the journey home to Vancouver Island includes heading south through the Thompson River area, Lillooet, Squamish, and finally the ferry over to gorgeous Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Burns Lake Canada Teaching Travel

Final days at Burns Lake—Sun, Kayaking, Lakes, School, Friends, Goodbyes.

June 24th—June 28th 2019

Lakes District in mid northern British Columbia has won a piece of my heart!

         Photos taken from Gerow Island near Burns Lake–June 2019

The Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position with School District 91 started as a 6 month contract and ended as a 7 1/2 month contract during the 2018-2019 school year.  I experienced a “true Canadian winter” in northern B.C. unlike the milder winters we experience on temperate Vancouver Island.

The amount of sunshine in snow country, and variety of year round sports opportunities, were bonuses I had not anticipated. I was also so grateful for the friendliness of the people thriving up here, diversity of cultures, and vast range of arts available.

        Out exploring on ATV’s with new friends–Burns Lake, B.C. 

It is no wonder there are so many young adults starting careers in the Burns Lake area. This blog post reflects my final few days as a member of the school staff and community of beautiful Burns Lake, British Columbia.

During the final days at Burns Lake my husband and I booked a lovely Airbnb “Lakeside Hideaway” on Gerow Island 2 minutes from Burns Lake. Each morning we awoke to birds singing, geese honking, sun reflecting off the lake, and tranquility of this peaceful, beautiful area.

Kayaking around Gerow Island

The courtesy kayaks called our names and we enjoyed a paddle or two most days. Sunsets were a kaleidoscope of red and yellow hues dancing above the hilltops each evening.

Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb Burns Lake

Inside, the suite was modern and well equipped. Even in late June we enjoyed the mesmerizing flames from the fireplace on the cooler nights. We will definitely return to this lovely accommodation on a future trip to northern Burns Lake.

Lakeside Hideaway Airbnb late June 2019

Meanwhile at school, the bustle of year end events was in full swing. Sports Day was very relaxed and it was wonderful to see so many parents in attendance. Triple Jump is normally my specialty, but at Decker Elementary I was assigned Standing Long Jump! I hadn’t seen this event in decades, but was pleasantly surprised at the distance some children achieved.

Sports Day at Decker

The new Aboriginal school blanket was unveiled at a school assembly by the Top All Around Grade 7 students from 2018 and 2019.

Several Learning Commons Leaders students created a QR code and riddle type scavenger hunt designed to introduce younger students to new areas of the library collection.

In the Library/Learning Commons we were busy with year end book collection, weeding of old books, Library collection inventory using Destiny, and QR Code scavenger hunts for the younger students.

Helping in the Learning Commons

Over one-half of the students in grades 5-7 were members of my Learning Commons Leaders’ club at Decker Elementary. These amazing students were quick to assist me deleting old/outdated/damaged books which we then displayed for all students and staff to take home Free!

Learning Commons Leaders sundae treats!

As a special treat for these incredible, dedicated, energetic students we had an ice-cream sundae treat day.The sweet treats were a sticky hit!

Happy students enjoying ice cream

On the final day of school with students in attendance we had the usual Award’s Day celebration. Although some students had departed on an early vacation, these photos give a glimpse into the number of grade 5-7 students involved as Learning Commons Leaders with me.

Learning Commons Leaders at Awards Day

It was exciting to see the growth in attendance of boys as initially all leaders were girls.

The P.A.C. (Parents Advisory Committee) showed their appreciation to the staff by preparing a delicious hot lunch on the final day of the school year. The wonderful menu included pulled pork buns, stuffed baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, corn bread, and desserts. We emerged satiated and extremely grateful.

Final Day of School PAC Appreciation Luncheon

After school I was invited to the year end staff party of my other school–William Konkin Elementary School. As you may observe…This school has a larger population and there is a substantially larger staff. The party was hosted by the husband/wife team Richard and Judy at their home in downtown Burns Lake.

WKE Staff Year End Party 2019

Under familiar blue skies, surrounded by lush green trees, we had a lovely time chatting and laughing together. From surprise mystery gifts and free summer time novels to read, to giant games and ‘be creative’ paint stations. Prior to the potluck dinner, two of our young female teachers made their grand entrance by driving up to the party area in their muddy side by side ATV.

WKE Year End Party!

This staff knows how to connect, laugh, and have fun. I made so many friends and will miss these caring, dedicated individuals very much as I return to Vancouver Island.

The final day of the school year was an administrative day at school.  While teachers packed up their classrooms and filed all paperwork; in the Learning Commons my husband worked tirelessly beside me as I endeavored to complete the first ever automated inventory of the Decker Lake Elementary library collection.

Scanning over 18,000 barcodes while teaching and completing year end procedures is no easy feat! I was working late into the evenings and during weekends determined to get the library collection inventory accomplished prior to my departure from sd91. At 3:19 p.m. on the final day of the school year we finally achieved 100% completion!

The staff had all departed for summer holidays except Dylan, the principal, who informed me he planned to set the school alarm at 4:00 p.m. My husband and I hurriedly threw my personal teaching belongings into several bins and we exited the front door from Decker Lake Elementary school at 3:59 pm.

Goodbye School District 91 and Burns Lake. Feeling immensely proud to have completed the dreaded library inventory, it was officially time to switch to summer vacation and commence retirement for the second time!

Highlights from the final days in Burns Lake

Prior to departing to Prince George, we stopped in to view two local stores I had not seen yet off Highway 16–Woods ‘N Water and the adjourning sewing store Yarn and Sew On. Both stores were filled with fascinating merchandise as shown on the accompanying video which highlights the last few days in Burns Lake.

Burns lake stores

Saying goodbye to the family I stayed with and lovely Brat the cat was emotional and difficult. Loretta, Joe, and Brat have become dear friends whom I will sincerely miss.

Loretta, Joe, Brat and I

Thanks for the memories Burns Lake and School District 91.

Typical Downtown Burns Lake—Highway 16

Tomorrow the next chapter of my adventure commences.